Fantastic Fuelie

Also from Issue 53

  • 2010 Grand Sport first drive
  • 731-bhp LMR Z06
  • Best buys for $20K
  • 1967 big-block coupe
  • LS7-powered 1963 restomod
  • Profile: David Burroughs
  • 1973 East Coast custom
  • Racing: ALMS GT2-class debut
  • How To: C3 control arms
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Fantastic Fuelie 1
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Fantastic Fuelie 3
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Fantastic Fuelie 7

Corvette and muscle-car collector Bill McCabe is quick to point out that he’s not the world’s foremost Corvette expert, but decades of experience in the hobby combined with a keen instinct enable him to immediately separate the wheat from the chaff—the first time he saw this fuelie, he was rendered speechless. “I just could not believe it when I saw this car for the first time,” he recalls. “I had never seen a ’57 that was this original, let alone a fuel-injected ’57. And there it was, just sitting at a local Kiwanis Club car show around the corner from my house!”

McCabe quickly asked whether the owner was interested in selling the car and was disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that he wasn’t. He stayed in touch, however, and periodically reminded the painter to please call if circumstances changed. In 1999, the call came and McCabe didn’t hesitate for a moment.

In addition to a variety of 100-point restored cars in his collection, McCabe has several beautifully preserved cars, but none are quite as old or quite as special as this Corvette. The paint is not perfect, but it is entirely original—with no spot repairs or touch-ups whatsoever. Because the car was garaged its entire life and spent so little time in the sun, its St. Louis-applied lacquer is free from crazing and still wears a proud shine.

The interior is similarly factory original, including the carpeting, seat upholstery, hardtop headliner and door panels. During the photo shoot, McCabe removed a laced-on steering-wheel cover that had undoubtedly been installed decades ago, revealing a virtually perfect steering wheel.

The only modification to the interior, and in fact the only modification to the entire car, is the addition of three extra gauges. Two of them, one for oil temperature and another for manifold vacuum, are understandable, but the third, for generator voltage, is slightly baffling, given that a voltage gauge was standard fare in all ’57 Corvettes. Regardless, the original owner installed these extra gauges and McCabe thinks it appropriate to leave them alone.

The original soft top, top frame, window glass, weather stripping, emblems, stainless trim and chrome all wear a light patina, yet they are so close to mint as to belie this car’s age.

Chevrolet first offered a power-operated soft-top option for Corvettes in 1956, and this is one of 1,336 cars that came with the $139.90 add-on in 1957. The system was rather complex, with loads of wiring, switches, brackets and other paraphernalia to help insure that everything went where it was supposed to when it was supposed to. It was all mounted behind a cardboard trim panel at the rear of the trunk. Motive power came from hydraulic rams fed by an electric motor-driven hydraulic pump. The system’s hydraulic fluid was nothing more than common brake fluid, which was a bad choice for two reasons: It readily absorbs moisture, which in turn encourages the corrosion of the system’s internal parts, and when the fluid leaks out and gets all over the trunk, it bubbles the paint and makes a big mess.